|Deathwatch | Published 02 April 2010|
Greetings, Deathwatch Fans!
This week I’d like to take a short break from talking about Space Marine Chapters and instead talk about the Jericho Reach, a war-torn region of space that is the setting for Deathwatch. During the development of “Project Iceberg” (the codename for Deathwatch), one thing I was very interested in was providing an opportunity for Space Marines of the Deathwatch to face some truly iconic and classic foes. This meant we could set Deathwatch in a completely different region of space than the Calixis Sector or the Koronus Expanse.
Welcome to the Eastern Fringe
The Jericho Reach lies far on the Eastern Fringe of the Imperium, a place that has been all but forgotten but now lies at the center of an Imperial Crusade to reconquer its territory...for within the Jericho Reach lies a singular prize; an ancient and mysterious warp gate that links it to the other side of the galaxy.
Author John French explains some of the themes and ideas behind the Jericho Reach:
Against a bloody background
One of the first things that was decided about the Jericho Reach (named by a certain Mr. Andy Hoare) was that it was going to be dominated by war and conflict. Deathwatch is, after all, a game about the Adeptus Astartes, the Emperor’s finest warriors and so we needed a war; a big one. We envisaged a portion of space swarming with the enemies of mankind, where forces clashed in every environment and circumstance imaginable.
How we would make the Jericho Reach a suitably war torn crucible of nightmares was answered by the first piece of development direction we were given: we would plough a Imperial Crusade into it. With this key point settled it followed that we would view the ‘Reach’ from the point of view of the Imperial Crusade forces: its topography would be made up of salients and war zones, its notable figures would be war leaders and heroes, and where the forces of the Crusade have yet to extend are its places of mystery and possibility.
This Imperial campaign became known as the Achillus Crusade. Once named, the Achillus Crusade quickly began to gather ideas and possibilities to it. Many of these early ideas fought their way to the front and became part of the Jericho Reach as it is revealed in Deathwatch, some perished in fire, and still others buried themselves in shadows and waited for a future time to be revealed. Here are some that made it:
A War of Reconquest
It was decided early on that the Jericho Reach had once been part of the Imperium; the Jericho Sector in fact. It was long ago abandoned to darkness, and the enemies of mankind took it for their own. We wanted to create a deliberate sense that the Imperium was returning to an area it had once known, but that had changed greatly over the intervening years and made less than it once was. One of the ways we engendered this feeling was to create worlds still inhabited by human populations that had successfully survived the isolation from the Imperium. Some remained loyal, but others had long ago been corrupted and now were entirely resistant to this Imperial reconquest.
The Three Salients
Rather than dividing up the Jericho Reach into sub-sectors, or similar regions, it is divided between the Crusade's main staging zone (known as the Iron Collar) and the three primary salients of advance through the Reach.
We wanted each salient to have a character of its own, with each facing a different dominant foe and set of circumstances. Each part of the Crusade has different character and plot threads woven into its background, making them more like sub-settings in their own right. The Canis Salient is the oldest and largest group of warzones and has clashed head on with the forces of Tau Expansion in a battle between two forces of conquest competing for resources and territory. The Acheros salient is characterised by a bloody war of attrition against the forces of Chaos which have encysted in the central worlds of the Jericho Reach. The Orpheus salient has become fragmented, its lines of communication and support overextended; all of which have made matters infinitely worse when a Tyranid hive fleet hit it in the flank.
Ancient Duties and Divided Agendas
The Deathwatch have their own agendas and keep their own council. The Achillus Crusade may be the cause for war on a massive scale, but it is not the reason that the Deathwatch are in the Jericho Reach. Nor do the Deathwatch answer to the command of the Crusade; they may aide the Crusade forces when the agendas of both coincide, but do not function as not part of the Crusade war machine. Most of the Imperial units outside of the senior Crusade commanders do not even know what the Deathwatch are, let alone that they have any presence in the Jericho Reach.
We divided the power and agendas in this way so that the Deathwatch player characters could potentially go anywhere in the Jericho Reach, fight as part of any conflict, and still follow their own narrative rather than that of the Crusade. The roleplay possibilities of conflicts between the Crusade command and the Deathwatch were also too good of an opportunity to pass up.
This divide between the Achillus Crusade and the Deathwatch also helped us emphasise the nature of the Deathwatch in this setting: they serve a higher purpose as watchmen who guard against enemies and possibilities even greater than those the Crusade must face. There is something alien and strange about the Jericho Reach; something dark, foul and perhaps even sinister. After all, the Deathwatch are here—and there must be a good reason for that.
I could tell you more, sharing what I know of the Omega Vault and the unfolding pattern that leads into a darker future. I would, but at my back I sense the Master of the Vigil drawing near, and the cold gaze of the secret keepers and so I must say nothing more.
Stay tuned for more revelations and more about the Space Marine Chapters in my next Deathwatch Designer diary!
Deathwatch is a roleplaying game in which players take on the roles of the bio-engineered super-soldiers known as Space Marines. United with their battle-brothers, players will complete extraordinary missions involving some of the greatest heroes and deadliest opponents the Warhammer 40,000 universe has to offer.
I wonder how the warp gate ties into the tyrant star and the Yu'Vath.
Okay, this changes things and heightens my interest in Deathwatch greatly. An in-setting connection from the Calixis/Koronus to the Eastern Fringe?
Color me intrigued.
Looks very promising.
wow that is going to be so cool. this going to make galaxy so much bigger. I really like the pic of the warp gate, it looks eldar.
This is very good. I wasn't even thinking about getting this book until today...
...an ancient and mysterious warp gate that links it to the other side of the galaxy...
That explains the Kroot in Rogue Trader...Keep it up guys!
Hah, they did the sensible thing, all right. Not having the Tau and Tyranids as palpable threats wouldn't have gone down well with a lot of players, not without reason
Well this does sound interesting. A great conflict and Godlike Warriors doing their own thing amidst the chaos. The opponents are nice as well. Chaos is always fun, Tyranids makes your skin crawl and who doesn't like to beat up some of those happy go lucky Tau? Consider me much more interested now.
OK, up until now I've been fairly indifferent to Deathwatch... but now I'm intrigued. :)
I guess this goes against what many people believed, with the Jericho Reach tied in with the Koronus Expanse and Calixis Sector. I like it though, being on the Eastern Fringe allows just about every major 40K race to get involved.
That sounds... magnificent.